The Connecticut Basement Tapes Project collects and brings to our airwaves the sounds of Connecticut’s past. Today’s basement tape segment brings us back to Storrs Connecticut, and the UConn student radio station WHUS-FM, circa 1971.
That music, Nut Rocker by B.Bumble and the Stingers, meant it was Saturday Night and time for the Ancient Archives Show.
"Well, good evening everyone. It's ten minutes until 10:00 on WHUS in Storrs, Connecticut. This is the Ancient Archives Show with Les Morell, your host for tonight."
That’s WHUS-FM student DJ Les Morell. On this particular Saturday night in 1971 Les dug deep into his extensive record collection for an ambitious project:
"We will feature tonight every single one of Elvis Presley's big recordings in chronological order, starting with Mystery Train and going up until his current hits. Standby. We're not going to stop at 2:00, we're going to go until we hit the last recording."
So how did I discover this tape? My buddy Dave a few months ago handed me a boxful of 7 inch reel to reel tapes. The tapes were his father’s, an obsessed audiophile that left these tapes with Dave when he moved to Florida. In the box was a collection of what can be best described as a very Hi –Fi, high tech version of mix tapes, but I also found this Ancient Archives Elvis Marathon broadcast. After a quick search on the internet, I found Les Morell. He still lives in Connecticut, and was quite shocked when I told him of my find.
"When you sent me that CD, I listened to it and, honestly, I don't recall the circumstances of putting this show together. I'm not quite sure what brought it about except that I was a big Elvis fan and had a lot of his records. And I thought, you know, why not do a special? The entire show, from start to finish, was Elvis. We started with his first recording--right up until his last one at that time. It took about five hours to do the show. I had some data that I got--of course there was no internet back then, so all the research was done at the UConn Library."
"Nothing was pre-recorded. So I had the records stacked on one side, my script in front of me, the microphone set up and here we go. And, by the way, I didn't have a director or a producer or anything like that. It was just me, myself, and I, for five hours, with the door closed...here we go."
"Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8th, 1935 in East Tupelo, Mississippi. Actually, twins were born to Gladys and Vernon Presley, but Jesse Aaron died in childbirth. Elvis' first exposure to music came at the age of three, when he used to run up and try to sing along with the choir at the First Assembly of God Church in East Tupelo, Mississippi."
"And of course after listening to it recently, I realized that I really was a 20 or 21 year-old college student putting this thing together. I mispronounced some of the names and some of the towns....so I didn't really do my homework like I should have. However, if you put that aside and you listen to the show, it really does bring you a lot of good information.
"The one night stands continued as Colonel Tom Parker became his manager. In Jacksonville, teenagers tore off his clothes, shredded his shirt and jacket and ripped off his shoes. In mid-July Baby, Let's Play House became his first record to appear on the national best seller charts."
Student DJ Les Morell in 1971. Morell would go on to be the station manager at WHUS, but I asked him how he got started at the station back in the late 1960’s.
"I used to hang out in the studio iwth Sexy Rex Faithful...Isn't that a radio name? And I said, "This is great, how do I do this, how do I get involved?" Eventually, Sexy Rexy graduated from UConn and they had to find someone to fill the position. So I took over the show. What I brought to the ancient archives show was more history about the music than just playing the songs alone. I was fascinated by the background, the singers, where they came from, how the songs came about."
"Tom Parker came to New York and visted his friends at RCA. He knew Frank Folsom, RCA President because of his other dealings with Eddie Arnold and Hank Snow. Finally a deal was set up. RCA would pay $35,000 cash for Elvis' contract, which had one year to go on Sun Records."
That's Les Morell back in 1971. When Les graduated He continued his Ancient Archives show at his new job at WILI in Willimantic. He spent many years in radio in Television. Nowadays owns Subway shops in New London, and is a corporate trainer for Subway.
We want to hear from you for the Connecticut Basement tapes project. Do you have an audio GEM that’s been gathering dust and mold? Let us know. Email me at [email protected].
We’ll leave you with a Public service announcement from Les Morell’s 1971 WHUS Elvis Broadcast:
"Somebody you don't know needs something you've got, something you can give with very little effort: blood. When you give it you do somthing really special, you turn on life. It's something only you can do because the secret of making blood is locked in your body. Call the Red Cross now and make an appointment to give blood. When you do, you turn on life."